Tactical vests have long been an integral part of the gear for military and law enforcement. However, the Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) stands out for its adaptability and customizable design after years of research and improved design. This article provides an overview of what MTV is, its historical development, and the types of MTVs, including their use, protective capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages.

What is a Modular Tactical Vest?

The Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) is tactical gear that incorporates an adjustable design allowing for a high degree of customization. The ‘modular’ in its name refers to the ability to attach various pouches and accessories, such as ammunition pouches, radio holders, and utility pockets, depending on the user’s needs. This enables the wearer to tailor their loadout for different mission scenarios while maintaining a balance between protective coverage, load distribution, and mobility.

History of Modular Tactical Vests

The concept of the modular tactical vest can be traced back to the evolution of body armor and tactical load carrying equipment. As threats faced by military and law enforcement evolved, so did the gear designed to protect against them. Traditional flak jackets provided little ballistic protection and were not designed to carry equipment.

The invention of MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system in the 1990s revolutionized tactical gear design. It offered a standardized platform for attaching pouches and equipment, which became a core feature of modular tactical vests.

AR 15 molle magazine pouch - Tacticon Armament
MOLLE magazine pouch

Over time, innovations in materials and design led to improvements in protection, comfort, and load distribution, culminating in today’s modular tactical vests.

Types of Modular Tactical Vests

Modular tactical vests come in various types, each designed with specific features for different applications. Two well-known examples are the Improved Modular Tactical Vest (IMTV) and the original MTV.

The IMTV is an advancement over the MTV, providing improved protection, weight distribution, and comfort. It offers the option of attaching or removing components such as neck and groin protectors, depending on the mission requirements. The IMTV also incorporates design elements to improve comfort and mobility, such as adjustable shoulder straps and side closures.

The MTV, on the other hand, was a significant upgrade over the older Outer Tactical Vest (OTV). The MTV offers enhanced ballistic protection, better load distribution, and more modularity for carrying equipment. Both vests come in different sizes to accommodate various body types and can be adjusted for a secure and comfortable fit.

Who Needs a Modular Tactical Vest?

Modular tactical vests are primarily designed for military personnel, law enforcement, and anyone who wears tactical gear for any purpose. They provide a balance between protection, carrying capacity, and mobility, making them essential for those who face potential threats in their line of duty. However, they are also used by airsoft players, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts for carrying equipment and armor plates.

Protection & Ballistics

Modular tactical vests are designed to provide ballistic protection against specific threats. They often feature front, back, and optional side armor plate pockets where the wearer can insert body armor plates. These plates are made from various materials, such as ceramic, steel, or UHMWPE, varying in protection levels based on the plates’ NIJ (National Institute of Justice) level protection rating. Some vests also have the option of adding soft armor panels for protection against fragmentation and pistol threats.

The level of ballistic resistance provided by a modular tactical vest depends on the armor plates used and their NIJ rating level. They can range from NIJ Level IIA, which protects against common handgun rounds, to Level IV, which protects against armor piercing rifle rounds.

NIJ (National Institute of Justice) armor levels - IIA, II, IIIA, III, IV - Tacticon Armament
NIJ Armor Levels

Tactical Considerations When Choosing a Modular Tactical Vest

Choosing a modular tactical vest requires careful consideration of several factors. These include mission requirements, compatibility with other gear, ease of adjustment and customization, and comfort. The vest should provide the right balance of protection and mobility, carry all necessary equipment, and be comfortable enough for prolonged use.

Advantages of Wearing the Modular Tactical Vest

Wearing a modular tactical vest provides several advantages. These include:

  1. Enhanced Protection: MTVs offer a high degree of ballistic protection when equipped with body armor plates.
  2. Increased Carrying Capacity: The modular design allows for attaching a wide range of pouches and accessories, enabling the wearer to carry all necessary equipment.
  3. Adaptability: MTVs can be customized to suit different mission scenarios, allowing the wearer to adjust their loadout as needed.

Disadvantages of Wearing the Modular Tactical Vest

Despite their advantages, modular tactical vests also have potential drawbacks:

  1. Added Weight and Bulkiness: MTVs, particularly those equipped with body armor plates, can be heavy and cumbersome.
  2. Reduced Mobility: The added weight and bulk can limit mobility, particularly in confined spaces.
  3. Need for Training and Maintenance: Effective use of an MTV requires training, and practice like all gear require regular maintenance to ensure their longevity and effectiveness.

Modular Tactical Vest vs Tactical Plate Carrier

While both modular tactical vests and tactical plate carriers serve similar purposes, there are key differences between them. A modular tactical vest typically offers more comprehensive coverage and carries more gear, making it ideal for situations requiring maximum protection and equipment. In contrast, a tactical plate carrier is generally lighter and more streamlined, focusing primarily on carrying armor plates. This makes it more suited for scenarios where speed, mobility, and low profile are more important. 

MTV Frequently Asked Questions

What Tactical Vest Does the Military Use?

Different branches of the military use different tactical vests depending on their specific requirements. The U.S. military uses the Improved Modular Tactical Vest (IMTV), Improved Outer Tactical Vest. However there are many plate carriers in use depending on the unit, including Crye, Spiritus Systems, and others.

Can a Modular Tactical Vest Stop a Sniper Bullet?

Whether a modular tactical vest can stop a sniper bullet depends on the type of bullet and the armor plates used in the vest. High powered sniper rounds can penetrate all soft armor and some lower level hard armor plates. However, Level IV hard armor plates are rated to stop armor piercing 30.06 sniper rounds.

Is It Okay to Wear Tactical Gear in Public?

Wearing tactical gear in public depends on local laws and regulations. While it’s generally legal to wear tactical gear, doing so will draw attention and cause alarm. It’s also important to note that certain items, like body armor and magazines may have legal restrictions depending on where you are.

Can Civilians Wear Tactical Gear?

Yes, civilians can legally purchase and wear most types of tactical gear, including modular tactical vests. However, it’s always important to check local laws and regulations.


Modular vests are a versatile piece of equipment. They allow the user to increase their carrying capacity while making gear more accessible at the same time. The customization of these vests allows for adaptation to any circumstance, in any environment. For any purpose you may need there is a modular vest that will help you out on your mission. 

If you plan on using this vest with body armor it is important to familiarize yourself with body armor and the level of protection afforded based on their ratings. 

Remember these modular tactical vests serve many purposes, like adaptability, customization, carrying capacity, and the ability to hold armor plates adding protection. 

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.