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Tactical Gear Frequent Asked Questions

When professionals choose their equipment, they pursue every advantage that gear can offer.

With the latest technologies, gunfighters are safer, smarter, and faster than ever before. Whether you’re a soldier, a police officer, or an American gun-owner, your gear is a toolset. Every pouch, pocket, and armor plate will define your effectiveness in combat, and even basic equipment can make the difference between triumph and tragedy.

Though most Americans are comfortable with firearms, few have experience with body armor or tactical equipment. As a result, gear can draw significant reactions depending on who you’re talking to. Some might view it as a sign of paranoia or ‘prepper’ behavior. Some might even see it as extremism.

In reality, both perceptions are flawed. If you purchase a firearm for self-defense, you’re already recognizing that human behavior is inherently dangerous. The purpose of tactical gear is to help defend you from those dangerous behaviors, offering you superior protection and responsiveness in times of crisis.

In many ways, arguments against gear are the same as arguments against the AR15: they’re both based on superficial appearances. Gun-owners know that a military aesthetic should not discredit protective equipment—especially when it’s responsible for saving countless lives.

Ultimately, tactical gear represents a wide spectrum of readiness and severity. As we walk through this guide, you’ll find that a lot of gear is great for camping and outdoor activities, so don’t feel like every piece of kit has to come in camouflage.

For most gun-owners, this is one of the most important pieces of gear you can buy.

If you want to do any kind of tactical or competitive shooting, you’ll need a thick belt, a holster, and some magazine pouches to carry your ammunition. A ‘battle belt’ should be the first piece of gear that any gun-owner buys, and even basic belts can offer a lot of mileage.

Traditional leather gun belts and rigger belts are the simplest choice, but they don’t have much modularity for mounting pouches or accessories.

‘Blast Belts’ or padded belts offer plenty of PALS webbing for accessory attachment, but these belts are heavier and won’t actually hold up your pants.

The latest and greatest belts are a 2-piece setup. These belts are composed of both an inner belt and outer belt. The inner belt threads through your belt loops and provides rigidity with waistband support, while the outer belt connects with Velcro and offers PALS webbing for accessory mounting.

Most tactical belts will cost between $50-$200, depending on the feature set and load rating. Many professional groups use load-bearing belts with retention lanyards to keep them tethered in a moving vehicle. These belts are more rugged, so they cost a bit more.

As for your holster and pouches, most high-quality tactical holsters cost between $60 and $180, while most pouches range between $20 and $50 each. For brands, we recommend Safariland, ANR Design, and Blackhawk for the latest holsters, while HSGI, Blue Force Gear, and Velocity Systems make exceptional ammo pouches.

In blogs, we’ve repeatedly declared our love of shooting gloves, and this guide will be no exception.

Gloves are an important part of any range kit, protecting your hands from heat and scrapes while improving grip through sweat and rain. Whether you’re out hunting, running a competition, or following a patrol, your hands are one of the most frequently injured parts of the body. Gloves mitigate those injuries and allow you to handle hazardous objects like hot metal, sharp objects, and chemicals.

One important factor: gloves are disposable, much like socks. Due to the amount of motion and wear, no glove can last forever. High-quality leather gloves will last longer because of their superior stitching, but even a $100 pair can fail after one unlucky spill—especially with high-dexterity gloves with thin fabrics.

Overall, we recommend you find a glove that fits your hand and budget—then stick with it. Gloved movements feel very different from bare hands, so it might take a bit of practice in acclimating to weapons handling. If you stick with one set of gloves, you won’t have to re-train much on a fresh pair.

You should already have a basic set of hearing and eye protection for range trips.

‘Tactical’ hearing protection usually refers to electronic earmuffs with integrated microphones for communications. If you aren’t running a radio, any set of electronic hearing protection should be sufficient. Basic electronic hearing protection ranges from $60-$200, while comms-compatible units cost between $400 and $600. You’ll find that this kind of price jump is common for specialized products that require expert knowledge and experience for use, since most professional buyers have flexible budgets.

Moving to eye protection, ‘tactical’ eyewear is an ever-evolving subject. In the past, ‘tactical’ eyewear meant goggles. Goggles offer great protection against wind, dust, and smoke, which is ideal for use in vehicles or deserts, but this extra protection comes at the cost of bulk and reduced peripheral vision. Nowadays, most professionals prefer ballistics glasses instead, keeping their goggles packed away for special situations.

For both goggles and glasses, military-grade eyewear features high-quality removable lenses, which protect against shrapnel and fragmentation. These lenses will be more resistant to water, fogging, and scratching, but the ‘tactical’ description is doing a disservice. Any sportsman should appreciate these features—especially hunters who need an unimpeded view of their target. Expect to pay $50-$100 dollars for pro-grade eye protection.

No matter where you go in life, a high-quality backpack is worth the expense.

‘Tactical’ backpacks come with specialized durable materials, colors, and MOLLE/PALS compatibility. These bags maximize durability and capacity while minimizing weight and snag. If you are looking for quality and value, Vertx and Grey Ghost Gear both make excellent packs at a very appealing price point, floating between $100 and $200.

As for rucks, expect to pay a little more for sustainment. Rucks distribute a heavy weight across the user’s chest and hips, requiring complex materials with more adjustment points. While a traditional ALICE ruck can suffice, modern rucks are lighter and more comfortable.

The best way to shop for backpacks is by volume. First, determine your average carriage load, then calculate an approximate volume requirement. Your best backpack is the perfect size for the mission at-hand. If you need long-term sustainment, be sure to compare the internal frames, since weight distribution is a major contributor to comfort.

Hydration is important for any demanding physical activity. If you’re doing sprints with 30-40lbs of heat-insulating armor and equipment, you’ll find it especially important.

Hydration can be as simple as a Nalgene bottle or as streamlined as a hydration bladder. Bladders are the more efficient option, since they weigh less and feature a sealable hose for quick, convenient drinking. Most outdoorsy and ‘tactical’ backpacks already have built-in hydration sleeves to support a bladder, so if you have a compatible pack, you’re set for success.

If you don’t want that investment, any Nalgene bottle can act as a basic canteen. No reason to be overtly ‘tacticool’ about a water bottle.

Combat pants are a comfortable addition to most gun-owners’ wardrobe, offering built-in protection against spills and scrapes. They might not win awards in haute couture, but if you’re dropping to kneeling or prone, your joints will thank you.

Most combat pants feature ripstop material, which is durable enough to take the abuse of a combat situation without splitting seams or falling apart. If you’re looking for a combat-capable pant for everyday wear, many manufacturers make incognito options that both stylish and practical. Some of these pants appear professional enough to wear in an office setting, so keep that in mind if you live a white-collar lifestyle.

Top brands for tactical pants include Propper, 5.11 Tactical, Vertx, Tru-Spec, and Vertx.

A medical kit and first aid training are more likely to save a life than anything else in this guide—firearms included.

First Aid is one of the most important survival skills you can learn, and you’ll find it useful both inside and outside of tactical applications. We wanted to place medical kits in the mandatory category, but combat medicine requires intensive training. If you overestimate your abilities, you might make an injury significantly worse by addressing it incorrectly. As a general rule, only purchase equipment that you KNOW HOW TO USE.

For a tactical trauma kit, common items include trauma dressing, compressed gauze, hemostatic bandages, a twin pack of chest seals, an NPA (Nasopharyngeal Airway), medical tape, shears, nitrile gloves, a sharpie, and tourniquets. These are all critical items that can mean the difference between fatality and full-recovery, so don’t skip any of these items.

Gunshots mean blood loss, so tourniquets are especially important. CAT Tourniquets aren’t the most affordable tourniquet on the market, but they’ve repeatedly shown their effectiveness overseas, so we recommend them over most alternatives. If you want a convenient way to purchase all of the aforementioned supplies, a NAR SIRK Kit includes everything on our list and more for $100-$130.

As for kits themselves, we highly recommend tear-away pouches like Blue Force Gear’s Trauma Kit Now. Tear-away medical pouches operate with two parts: the carrier and the storage pouch. By pulling on a tab, you can free the carrier from the pouch, giving instant access to your supplies, which you can lay out in front of you. Most tear-away medical pouches cost $80-$120.

If you are more experienced in tactical medicine, your medical kit might also include a decompression needle. Used correctly, a decomp needle will ease tension in the pneumothorax, preventing lung collapse. Used incorrectly, a decomp needle can perforate a vital organ. This serves as an important reminder: TACTICAL MEDICINE REQUIRES SPECIALIZED TRAINING. If you have a medical kit for firearms-related injuries, you need to back it up with experience and instruction, or you could make a wound even worse.

To wear armor plates, you’ll need a plate carrier.

Plate carriers hold your armor along with additional magazine pouches, medical equipment, and communications gear. Plate carriers come in a wide variety of prices and designs, but we recommend looking at brands with reputations for quality and military issuance.

Names like Blue Force Gear stand out as the flagships of the gear world, but there are many other great brands on the market. Each plate carrier design will have its own weight, durability, and feature set, so consider all your needs before making a purchase. Plate carriers cost anywhere between $100 and $600, depending on the materials, technology, and sizing.

If you don’t have armor but still want the load carriage of a plate carrier, a chest rig might be your best bet. Chest rigs are a lightweight alternative that can carry your mags, tools, water, and radio when armor is unnecessary.

As with carriers, different chest rigs will offer unique features, but the best chest rigs will be modular, allowing you to customize and build on the system to fit your needs.

Even if you have a plate carrier, we recommend you purchase a basic chest rig. They can be very helpful for hunts, hikes, or other activities where body armor is unnecessary.

Helmets are usually one of the last pieces of gear that someone will buy. Top-quality helmets are expensive, costing up to $1200, but that price translates to weight, protection, and comfort for the user. If you can’t afford the latest and greatest high-cut from Team Wendy, surplus MICH and ACH helmets are readily available and have a proven track record with the military.

Functionally, a ballistic helmet serves two major roles: ballistic protection and night vision support.

Regarding ballistic protection, most helmets can stop direct pistol and shotgun threats, though the latter may still cause serious concussion. Helmets also protect you from shrapnel, fragmentation, and blunt trauma, which are all potentially debilitating.

Helmets also play an important role in supporting night vision equipment. Most night vision devices attach directly to a shroud at the front of the helmet, so most professionals will own either a ballistic or bump helmet. Bump helmets do not protect against ballistic threats, but they’re lighter and more affordable, with considerable blunt trauma resistance.

If you are uncertain of the value in a ballistic helmet but still want NV mounting capability, bump helmets are the perfect middle ground.

Yes. Night vision is completely legal for civilian ownership, though some manufacturers limit their offerings to retail customers.

Night vision is the most complex subject covered in this guide, so we won’t dive too deep into the technical aspects. Instead, we’ll just highlight some of the most common considerations when purchasing night vision: intensifier tube quality and housing style.

Intensifier tubes are the heart and soul of a night vision device. The intensifier tube contains all the technology which allows the unit to collect and magnify light to usable levels. As a result, intensifier tubes are one of the most expensive components in night vision devices, and the best tubes can cost thousands of dollars.

Currently, L3 is the leading supplier of America’s intensifier tubes, and their best units are ‘unfilmed’ white-phosphor, which provide an ultra-clear gray/blue image. White phosphor is becoming the new standard for both military and police groups, but traditional ‘filmed’ green-phosphor tubes are far more economical with admirable performance.

Along with intensifier tubes, every night vision device has an electronic housing and optics. Housings come in multiple styles, but the most common designs are monoculars and binoculars. Monoculars are more cost effective, since you only need one intensifier tube. Binoculars are more expensive, but they offer superior performance when navigating in low light.

First, set a budget. Modern night vision isn’t cheap—it’s an investment.

Monoculars are the most cost-effective approach to night vision, since you only need one image intensifier tube. PVS14s have seen service with the US military for many years, so their effectiveness in combat is undeniable. There are also weapon-mounted monoculars like the PVS-30, which are used with a marksman’s magnified optic during night operations.

A basic PVS14 with a filmed green-phosphor tube will cost at least $1,500 on its own, and the mounting equipment will quickly bring that price up to $2,000 at least. In upgrading to an unfilmed white-phosphor tube, the average price will reach over $3,000.

As expensive as that sounds, binoculars are far more costly. The technology built into dual-tube units demands a steeper investment, and your intensifier tubes must be close enough in spec to not cause significant issues. Even the most affordable dual-tube setups will command nearly $6,000, while unfilmed white-phosphor units can run well beyond $10,000.

The answer depends on your financial situation, but the benefits of night vision are substantial.

You may wonder, “What tactical advantage could be worth the down payment on a home?” The answer: NODs aren’t just another force multiplier. NODs are a ticket to the 8 hours a day when the sun doesn’t shine. With a high-quality night vision setup, you can effortlessly maneuver through near total darkness. No other technology can offer you that kind of advantage.

To the average hobbyist, night vision may seem frivolous. It’s up to you whether the perks outweigh the price, but once you look through a set of unfilmed white-phosphor binoculars, you’ll understand why so many gun-owners are investing in the technology.

As if NODs weren’t expensive enough on their own, there are many other mandatory accessories, including mounting hardware, IR illuminators, and marking strobes.

To attach a night vision device to a helmet, you’ll need mounting hardware from Wilcox or Norotos. Both brands offer their own proprietary mounting interface, though Wilcox is the more popular of the two. In mounting a PVS-14 to a helmet, you’ll need a J-Arm, a mount (such as the L4 G24), and a compatible mounting shroud. Combined, these three items can cost well over $600.

You’ll also want an IR illuminator and laser to mount on your carbine. Night vision is powerful, but with no ambient light, you’ll struggle to discern targets at a distance. For this reason, you use an IR illuminator to project infrared light, which is invisible to the naked eye.

Unfortunately, civilian customers have limited options since military lasers are restricted for their output. Still, you can always use a Steiner DBAL D2 or BE Meyers MAWL-C1+ to make up for the power loss. These two units stand out some of the best civilian illuminators on the market. The DBAL D2 costs around $1,200-$1,400, while the MAWL costs up to $2,800.

Finally, if you’re out in the dark with friends, you’ll want IR strobes and markers. These devices flash in IR light, broadcasting your location to others with night vision. Devices like the Hel-Star 6 can also flash in visible light for rescue operations.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send us a message at info@primaryarms.com or call us at 713-344-9600.