Recreational shooting is an enjoyable hobby.
Like any hobby, there are pieces of equipment you can use to make your experience even better.
Clay, skeet, and sporting clays can be done with nothing more than a shotgun, eye protection, ear protection, and 25 rounds of ammunition.
I’ve done this, and it gets annoying having to bend down to grab the next shell after you’ve shot at the clay pigeon.
A shooting vest will help by holding the ammo closer and giving you a place to put your eyes and ears when in the clubhouse.
Add on some blaze orange and a game pocket and you have a shooting vest that will see you through the woods and back home.
A good shooting vest won’t make or break your hunt but it’ll just make your experience all that more comfortable.
The 8 Best Shooting Vests of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best Cheap: Champion Adjustable Trap Vest
- Best Clay: Browning Ace Technical Shooting Vest
- Best with Recoil Pad: Allen Ace Shooting Vest
- Best Women’s: UTG True Huntress
- Best Lightweight: Browning Trapper Creek
- Best Upland Game Hunting Vest: Gamehide Switchgrass Upland Field Bird
- Best Deer Hunting Vest: Primos Gunhunter’s Vest
- Best Strap Shooting Vest: Browning Bird’n Lite
|Category||Best for clay shooting||Best for upland hunting||Best for deer hunting|
|Available Sizes||M - 3XL||M - 4XL||M - 3XL|
|Available Colors||- blue/grey|
|- blaze orange|
|Pros||- Space for team names||- Good amount of storage for shells and game||- Waterproof lining|
|Unique Feature||Sewn-in REACTAR G2 pad pocket||Made to go over a jacket||Compass & LED light attached to zipper|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Cheap Shooting Vest: Champion Adjustable Trap Vest
The Champion Adjustable Trap Vest is an inexpensive piece of kit, suitable for hunting and for shooting sports.
It hits many of the points you want in a shooting vest, including some others miss.
The Champion Trap Vest has an ambidextrous design, with pockets on both the left and right belly. You can fit an entire box of 12 gauge shells in each pocket. With the box!
There are multiple other pockets as well, though this vest lacks a large rear pocket. Overall, there’s a mediocre amount of storage space
There’s a shooting pad on each shoulder, though it’s not a full-on recoil pad.
The front of the vest, where there isn’t a pocket, is mesh, good for keeping cool on warm days. Same with the back, except for the shoulder yoke.
All of the non-mesh fabric is blaze orange, so this is a safe hunting vest.
The sides have elastic through grommets so it can expand or contract to fit your torso. The back has a cinch as well.
- Lightweight and breathable
- Surprisingly high build quality for the price
- Cannot use a recoil pad without modification
- Mediocre storage capacity
The Champion Adjustable Trap Vest is a good vest for shooting clays or stalking deer when you want to save your money for more important items.
2. Best Clay Shooting Vest: Browning Ace Technical Shooting Vest
Chances are good that if you’ve been to a trap competition, you’ve seen someone wearing a Browning Axe Technical Shooting Vest. Potentially an entire team.
In fact, the Ace is designed for you to add your team’s name to the vest!
Browning’s Ace is aimed at trap and skeet shooters. It’s not designed as a field vest. There’s both spandex and mesh for comfort.
The Ace has a slightly asymmetrical design and is intended for right-handed shooters. As such, one side has a long Nylon shooting patch. Behind it is a pocket for the REACTAR G2 recoil pad, which is sold separately.
Opposite the shooting patch is a series of pockets for small gear, such as choke tubes and hearing protection. Most of the storage is further down.
There are bellows-style shell pockets which expand when carrying shells but lay flat when empty. Behind you is a large pocket, good for empty shells. There’s also a water bottle pocket.
The Ace Technical Shooting Vest is available for both men and women. The men’s style has bright blue trim while the women’s style has hot pink trim.
- Can add the high-quality REACTAR G2 recoil pad
- Great storage
- Space for team names
- Right-handed only
- The recoil pad comes separate
The Browning Ace Technical Shooting Vest is a great trap and skeet vest, especially for team-based shooting sports, but isn’t intended for field use.
3. Best Shooting Vest with Recoil Pad: Allen Ace Shooting Vest
The Allen Ace may have a similar name to the Browning Ace, but it’s a very different shooting vest.
They both have a similar design in that there’s a shooting patch that swoops down to the shell pocket. The rest of the vest is breathable mesh.
However, the Allen Ace’s shooting pad is mirrored on both sides. Also, it not only has a recoil pad pocket but comes with a recoil pad.
This makes the Allen Ace good for both right-handed and left-handed shooters. It’s also good for people who want some recoil reduction without buying a separate recoil pad.
The Allen Ace is more limited in other factors, though.
It only has the two shell pockets. There are no other pockets for eye protection, spent shells, etc.
Also, the adjustability is lacking. The sides have elastic but the rear cinch strap has two buttons on either side.
Users have reported getting the perfect fit by modifying the vest, so don’t discount it based on this factor alone!
- Ambidextrous design
- Comes with a recoil pad
- Little non-shell storage
The Allen Ace is a good clay shooting vest but, more importantly, includes a recoil pad and is good for both right-handed and left-handed shooters.
Allen Ace Shooting Vest is also available at:
4. Best Women’s Shooting Vest: UTG True Huntress
The UTG True Huntress is a little bit different from other shooting vests, but it combines style and utility to make it good for women who like to hunt.
You can use it for shooting trap or skeet but you may need to wear a shell carrier. There are four pockets but, unlike most other shooting vests, they aren’t spacious enough for a box of shells each.
So, to carry 25 shells without a shell carrier, you may need to spread them around the pockets.
That doesn’t make the True Huntress any less of a shooting vest, though. The pockets are good for eye protection, ear plugs, and your smart phone.
There is a large rear pocket, good for carrying maps in the woods or empty shells at the gun club. There are even two pockets good for concealing a small handgun!
The True Huntress shines in colder weather. It has a polyester shell with a nylon mesh interior, which makes it good outerwear whether it’s a little brisk or very chilly.
You can get it in a variety of colors, from all black to blaze orange. You can also buy it in black or gray with pink trim.
Elastic cords up the sides makes this vest fit all frames.
- Concealed carry pockets
- Good for shooting and casual wear
- Great for hunting
- Lacks a shell carrier pocket
The UTG True Huntress is a stylish shooting vest that’s better for hunting than for shooting clays.
5. Best Lightweight Shooting Vest: Browning Trapper Creek
Some of us are heavy sweaters and don’t need too many additional layers. The Browning Trapper Creek is a mostly-mesh shooting vest that excels in shotgun shooting sports.
You can get the Trapper Creek for either right-handed or left-handed shooters. Online retailers often use the right-handed picture for the left-handed version, but you should still get the right model.
The Trapper Creek has a shooting patch on your strong-side shoulder that drops down to the shotgun shell pocket. Each side has two pockets and each side can hold a box of 25 shells each.
There’s not much more storage, though. The Trapper Creek has two elastic loops well-sized for pens, but not any other pockets.
The Trapper Creek comes in clay, sage, tan, and black colors. Annoyingly, there’s no blaze orange version.
- Lots of cool mesh
- Very lightweight
- Lacks blaze orange and so isn’t as good for hunting
The Browning Trapper Creek is a great hot weather shooting clays vest and can work for hunting as well, if you have another source of safety orange.
Browning Trapper Creek is also available at:
6. Best Upland Game Hunting Vest: Gamehide Switchgrass Upland Field Bird Hunting Vest
Shooting vests can be used in the field, not just at the gun range.
The Gamehide Switchgrass is an upland bird hunting vest. You can use it for clay shooting as well, though that’s not what it’s designed for.
The Switchgrass has a thorn-resistant cotton canvas fabric. Quilted shoulders provide some recoil reduction and are on both sides. They are blaze orange too, and large enough to satisfy the requirements of most states.
The non-orange fabric is either Chestnut Brown or Marsh Brown, so you can choose the color which best fits your hunting environment.
Zippered slash pockets can hold a large number of shells, though accessing them isn’t as easy as on a dedicated trap jacket.
There are also 16 elastic shell holders for fast reloads. A blaze orange soft panel protects your shotgun’s finish from the brass rims.
Once you’ve shot a bird or rabbit, the large back pocket and blood-proof game bag are excellent for hauling your animal home.
The Switchgrass is designed to be worn over a jacket so you’ll have to go down a size if you want to wear it over a shirt.
- Blaze orange
- Durable fabric
- Good amount of storage for shells and game
- Runs even larger than advertised
The Gamehide Switchgrass Upland Field Bird Hunting Vest is a tough canvas vest with good amounts of storage and blaze orange, perfect for upland hunting.
7. Best Deer Hunting Vest: Primos Gunhunter’s Vest
The Gunhunter’s vest is all blaze orange, for the utmost of safety in the woods. Two zippers have further safety implements. One is a whistle and the other a compass.
A license tag holder adorns the back, in case you have to answer to a game warden and left your wallet in the truck.
The shoulders are quilted, but the quilting doesn’t go down very far. My rifle’s stock extends down past the quilting unless I’m leaning forward into it. But that’s an action shooting technique and not the best for accurate hunting shots.
There are enough pockets for plenty of hunting gear. There are two large waist pockets which can be used to haul shells, two medium zippered pockets, and three small specialty pockets.
There’s also an elastic shooting stick pocket and multiple interior pockets to keep your cell phone and walkie talkie out of the rain.
A large rear pocket is good for birds and other game but isn’t blood-proof.
And, when the rain starts to fall, there’s a pull-out waterproof lining!
- Blaze orange
- Many pockets
- Multiple safety features
- Waterproof lining
- Quilted shoulder doesn’t drop as far down as the toe of your rifle or shotgun’s stock
- Runs large
The Primos Gunhunter’s Vest is an excellent hunting vest that’s safe, visible, and can carry more than you expect.
8. Best Strap Shooting Vest: Browning Bird’n Lite
Not everyone wants a full vest when hunting, even if it’s mostly mesh. Strap vests are good for these hunters and shotgunners.
The Browning Bird’n Lite is a lightweight yet heavy-duty strap vest that’s good for hunting and for recreational shooting. It resembles a military carry rig, except more useful for civilians.
The Bird’n Lite is a dual-tone vest, both khaki and blaze orange. Large, comfortable shoulder straps hold up the belt portion. Those shoulder straps are cushioned and serve as shooting patches.
The belt is adjustable, as are the shoulder straps. A sternum strap holds the shoulder straps in place, so the whole rig has good weight distribution and won’t shift even if you need to run after wounded game.
The bottom half has large pouches which can hold a box of shells each. Behind those are handwarmer pockets.
You can load the game bag from the front. Browning claims that it is blood proof, but multiple people have experienced leakage.
There are also water bottle pockets, a built-in rucksack, and a hunting license holder.
- Good weight distribution
- Lots of storage
- Plenty of orange
- Game pouch is not actually blood-proof
The Browning Bird’n Lite Strap Vest is an excellent choice when you want to save on weight and stay cool while carrying lots of shotgunning gear, though it’ll cost you.
How to Choose A Shooting Vest?
Shooting vests need to do one thing:
Hold your shooting equipment. Especially ammo.
Any of the vests above will do this for you, though some will work better or worse depending on what you want to carry.
Where do you want to use the shooting vest?
Will it be a trap, skeet, or other sporting clays vest? Do you want to wear the vest while hunting? In what weather will you wear the shooting vest?
All of these can influence your choice. Here’s the most important one, though:
Not all shooting vests are ambidextrous.
If you’re a left-handed shooter, then you should buy a right-handed or ambidextrous vest.
That’s because shooting vests have a patch for your rifle or shotgun stock to be held into. This is a tougher part of the vest, thicker for recoil absorption, and often made from a more grippy material.
The vest might be a bit too slippery for good wrong-side shouldering.
Pockets and Storage
While all shooting vests can hold ammo, ones intended for clay pigeon shooting have pockets designed to carry 25 shotgun shells at a time.
This will carry you through one round.
You can often use the other shell carrier pocket or a rear pocket to carry the empties.
However, your storage requirements may be different while hunting.
Hunters rarely go through 25 shots in the woods but you need to carry more gear with you. You’ll also need to carry taken game out of the woods.
A blood-proof game bag can help you carry a bird, rabbit, or other small animal at the small of your back.
If you need to carry more than a small amount of hunting equipment, then consider using a hunting backpack.
Clay pigeons don’t care what you look like. But if you walk into the shotgun club with as much blaze orange as possible, you may get some funny looks.
So, it may be wise to match your vest’s color to where you’ll use it. Other than that, coloration is personal preference.
How cool or warm will it be when and where you wear the vest?
An all-mesh vest is lightweight and allows lots of air to pass through. This is good for warmer weather use but it won’t help keep you warm.
Meanwhile, if you will be wearing the vest during a fall hunt, the extra fabric might help keep you warm. Fabric is more resilient than mesh too, so I wouldn’t wear a mesh vest in the uplands.
Top Shooting Vest Brands
Browning Arms Company
The Browning Arms Company, frequently called Browning, is one of the most well-known firearm and outdoor gear manufacturers.
Browning was founded because of John Moses Browning. While many of his guns were designed for the military, he produced many for civilian sporting use.
Some of those are still being sold today. In fact, if you visit a shotgun club, chances are you’ll see a Browning Citori used for shooting clay pigeons.
Personally, I started my trap journey with a Browning Auto-5.
Halfway through that season, I added a Browning shell carrier to my belt. Then a Browning vest.
Those did not add to my scores but made my overall shooting experience better. And I was not alone.
The Ace Technical Shooting and the Trapper Creek vests are two of my favorite trap vests, but they are not the only shooting vests put out by Browning.
You won’t find Browning apparel in the bottom bin, but I have always found them worth the price. Browning gear wears well and lasts a long time.
In fact, my longest-lasting socks were made by Browning. And I still use their vest every time I shoot clay pigeons.
Specialization often helps companies put out the highest-quality products possible. Gamehide specializes in hunting apparel and has done so for over 30 years.
Gamehide more than makes clothes for hunters, they make clothes for themselves as well. Gamehide employees test all of their hunting wear in the field before putting it for sale.
This ensures the quality of their apparel and that it will stand up to the harsh weather and nasty thorns that plagues hunters and tears apart weaker clothes.
While Gamehide focuses on durability, they also take plenty of time to innovate. For example, Gamehide has developed ElimiTick tick-proof hunting clothing.
ElimiTick clothes are impregnated with a repellent that turns away ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, and biting midges. Unlike aftermarket repellents, it won’t wash out of the fabric.
The Gamehide Switchgrass vest doesn’t have ElimiTick, but you can wear it over clothes that do!
Gamehide’s quality extends past the design and into the nitty gritty details of their clothes. They only use the best buttons and zippers.
Even Gamehide’s stitching is better than their competitors. Most hunting clothes have 7 to 9 stitches per inch. Gamehide’s have 9 to 11.
So, if you want a hunting vest you know will work, buy from a company who uses their own products. Gamehide is that company.