Jackets are great when cool weather hits.
However, many jackets can be problematic for people carrying a gun.
How can you quickly draw a concealed handgun when several layers block your hand from reaching your belt holster?
Tactical jackets offer this solution, and more.
A good tactical jacket will either carry your gun or give you access to your holster. And it’ll do this without restricting mobility and keeping you warm and dry.
Tactical jackets tend to be fleece, nylon, or polyester, and come in a variety of styles. There are even tactical hoodies available!
Keep reading and you’ll find a tactical jacket to fit you and your gun.
The 8 Best Tactical Jackets of 2021: Outdoor Empire Recommendations
- Best softshell: 5.11 Tactical Chameleon
- Best softshell #2: Rothco Special Ops
- Best winter jacket: 5.11 Tactical 5-in-1 Jacket
- Best winter jacket #2: Rothco 3 Season Concealed Carry Jacket
- Best fleece: 5.11 Tactical Fleece Jacket
- Best fleece #2: Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece Jacket
- Best hooded: Rothco Concealed Carry Hoodie
- Best waterproof: 5.11 Tactical Tac Dry Rain Shell Jacket
|Category||Best Softshell||Best Winter||Best Waterproof
|Product|| || ||
|Material||Polyester||Cotton shell and polyester lining||Nylon|
|Available Colors||- black|
- flat dark earth
- moss green
- dark navy
- navy blue
- olive drab
- dark navy
|Pockets||3 exterior, 3 interior||2 exterior, 6 interior||4 exterior, 2 interior|
|Weatherproof?||Wind and water repellant||Somewhat||Yes|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Tactical Softshell Jacket: 5.11 Tactical Chameleon
- Material: Polyester
- Available Colors: Black, flat dark earth, moss green, and dark navy
- Pockets: 3 exterior, 3 interior
- Hood? No
- Weatherproof? Wind and water repellant
- Misc: Concealed carry gun pocket, zip-out ID pockets
An offshoot of the popular 5.11 Tactical Sabre jacket, the 5.11 Tactical Chameleon is an excellent lightweight softshell jacket for both on-duty and off-duty use.
The Chameleon is available in four colors, though you can’t find all colors everywhere. The soft shell is polyester and is wind and water repellant.
Soft mesh lines the inside to help keep you cool. So, this is more of a cool and even warm weather jacket.
Though it looks like it has more pockets, the Chameleon has six. There are two handwarmer pockets, 3 interior pockets, and a utility pocket on the left sleeve. What appears to be more external pockets are zip-out ID pockets, which are good for going from covert to overt.
One of the interior pockets is designed for concealing a handgun. Another holds a spare magazine. For some reason, these two pockets are on the same side, which slows down reloading as you have to grab the mag with your gun hand.
The seat extends down, which can help cover an IWB handgun when you bend over.
- Casual, stealthy design
- Conceals a handgun
- Does not inhibit mobility
- Good for when cool weather turns warm
- Mag pocket is next to the gun pocket, which slows reloads
The 5.11 Chameleon is a great cool-weather jacket that can help you conceal a handgun, but you’ll need something with more heft to protect against colder weather.
5.11 Tactical Chameleon is also available at:
2. Best Tactical Softshell Jacket #2: Rothco Special Ops
- Material: Polyester
- Available Colors: Black, coyote brown, gun metal grey, midnight navy blue, olive drab, subdued urban digital camo, and woodland camo
- Pockets: 6 external, 2 internal
- Hood? Yes
- Weatherproof? Wind and water resistant
- Misc: Two patches, underarm ventilation zippers
The Rothco Special Ops softshell jacket is a medium-weight jacket that can be worn by itself or as a layer but has its quirks.
First of all, the Special Ops is less stealthy than some other jackets because it has two 4″x4″ Velcro sections for shoulder patches.
Second, the handwarmer pockets are not in the traditional location. They are high up on the chest, supposedly to aid in readiness. Those pockets can hold more than you’d expect and even have D-rings and a wire pass-through port.
There’s also a small pouch in each chest pocket which can carry a pistol magazine. This goes well with the two interior pockets which, while not intended for this purpose, can hold small handguns.
There is also a pocket on each shoulder, one above the left wrist, and a large rear pocket accessible from either side.
The hood hides next to the stand-up collar and there are underarm zippers for ventilation, though those can rub against your skin if you’re wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
- Good amount of storage
- Medium-weight but has ventilation to cool you if you need to engage in physical activity
- Handwarmer pockets are up on the chest
- The underarm vent zippers can irritate your arm if you’re wearing a short-sleeved shirt
The Rothco Special Ops is a good jacket for people who want a less casual softshell tactical jacket and who don’t want to wear a t-shirt.
3. Best Tactical Winter Jacket: 5.11 Tactical 5-in-1 Jacket
- Material: Polyester and fleece
- Available Colors: Black and dark navy
- Pockets: 10 exterior
- Weatherproof? Waterproof shell
- Misc: Fleece liner can be used as a jacket or vest
The 5.11 Tactical 5-in-1 Jacket is designed to be an all-weather jacket, coat, and vest.
The 5-in-1 accomplishes this by being a waterproof shell over a fleece jacket liner. You can wear the shell by itself when the weather is warm yet wet, wear the fleece for cooler weather, and wear both together for cold weather.
The outer shell has three zip-out ID pockets and six exterior pockets, two of which are on the forearms. There are two chest “document” pockets and two handwarmer pockets. There are no interior pockets.
The fleece liner has four pockets, two on the chest and two handwarmer pockets.
Both have a side zipper you can unzip to access pants pockets, a holstered sidearm, or to cool you down when you need the ventilation.
There’s a removable hood for when you need extra rain protection.
Unfortunately, the waist does not have a drawstring, only an elastic band, and is shorter than most non-police jackets. Most people who have problems with the 5-in-1’s fit complain about the waist.
- Many pockets
- Removable liner, which itself can be a jacket
- May be too short for people without a duty belt
- Waistband is elastic-only and lacks a drawstring
The 5.11 Tactical 5-in-1 Jacket is a winter coat, rain jacket, fleece vest, and more, all in one well-designed platform.
4. Best Tactical Winter Jacket #2: Rothco 3 Season Concealed Carry Jacket
- Material: Cotton shell and polyester lining
- Available Colors: Black, khaki, navy blue, and olive drab
- Pockets: 2 exterior, 6 interior
- Hood? No
- Weatherproof? Somewhat
- Misc: Interior pockets are for concealed carry
The Rothco 3 Season Concealed Carry Jacket is a very casual looking jacket that encroaches on “coat” territory.
It has a cotton outer shell that’s liked with quilted polyester. The insulation is strong enough to keep you warm during most of winter but the jacket is still wearable in spring and fall. You may need to layer up for the coldest days, though.
Also, the cotton shell is not truly weatherproof. It’ll keep out some wind and is good for light rain and snow but this is not a waterproof jacket.
It is, however, extremely good for concealing firearms.
There are two full-sized handgun pockets. You can even conceal a Desert Eagle in one of these pockets!
Though they are a bit thin, so it may be a good idea to use a pocket holster as well.
Above the handgun pockets are two horizontal magazine pouches, on either side. There are also two handwarmer pockets on the front of the jacket.
- Can conceal 2 full-sized guns and 4 magazines
- Good for cold-weather wear
- Not weatherproof
- Secured concealed carry may require a pocket holster
- The black is a lint magnet
The Rothco 3 Season Concealed Carry Jacket can be used to conceal two full-sized handguns in fall, winter, and spring, but may need assistance when the blizzard hits.
5. Best Tactical Fleece Jacket: 5.11 Tactical Fleece Jacket
- Material: Fleece
- Available Colors: Black, dark navy, and sheriff green
- Pockets: 5 exterior, 2 interior
- Hood? No
- Weatherproof? Wind resistant
- Misc: Pass-through side zipper
The 5.11 Tactical Fleece Jacket is about as un-fancy as you can get a fleece jacket while still being tactical.
It has a simple, mono-color design that’s primarily fleece. It’s a heavyweight fleece too, so the Tactical Fleece Jacket will protect you from the wind and keep you warm.
If you need to keep the jacket on when the temperature rises, there are side zippers. They can be used for ventilation or for quick access to a holstered sidearm.
The Tactical Fleece Jacket has two chest pockets and two interior pockets, but none of them are designed to conceal a heavy item such as a firearm. There are also two handwarmer pockets and a single small zippered pocket on the left forearm.
The elbows, shoulders, and neck are all abrasion-resistant, so this fleece jacket can stand up to heavy wear.
- Heavyweight fleece
- Stealthy yet usable design
- Chest pocket Velcro can catch on the fleece
- Not good for concealing weapons
The 5.11 Tactical Fleece Jacket is a durable fleece jacket that beats the weather but isn’t the best at concealing a gun.
6. Best Tactical Fleece Jacket #2: Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece Jacket
- Material: Fleece and nylon
- Available Colors: Black, coyote tan, and olive drab
- Pockets: 4 external
- Hood? No
- Weatherproof? Weather resistant
- Misc: Shoulder patch panels
The Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece Jacket is made from lightweight fleece but is reinforced with nylon in high-wear areas so it’ll last a long time.
The polyester fleece is wind and water resistant but it’s not built for long exposures. There also isn’t as much insulation as expected, so this jacket is best for just-barely-cool weather unless you add layers.
The left and right arms have a 4″x4″ Velcro patch. There are four external pockets. Two are hand warmers and one is on the left bicep. The chest pocket has a small, 5.5″ opening that’s 15″ inches deep!
You may be able to conceal a small handgun in the chest pocket, but you better be right-handed if you want to draw that pistol.
The sleeves have a thumbhole in the nylon reinforcement. You can fold that back if you want a shorter sleeve.
The fleece jacket’s bottom is surprisingly short. This aids in mobility and lets you use a duty belt without trouble, but may not work properly for people with long torsos.
- High-quality zipper
- Very deep chest pocket
- Lightly insulated
- Not ambidextrous
- Too short for some people
Condor’s Alpha Tactical Fleece Jacket has a very durable design that will let operators operate operationally for a long time.
Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece Jacket is also available at:
7. Best Hooded Tactical Jacket: Rothco Concealed Carry Hoodie
- Material: Polyester
- Available Colors: Black, coyote brown, and gun metal grey
- Pockets: 3 external
- Hood? Yes
- Weatherproof? Somewhat
- Misc: Pass-through access, Velcro shoulder patch
Not many people think “tactical” or “concealed carry” when they see a hoodie, which makes the Rothco Concealed Carry Hoodie a very stealthy choice.
The Concealed Carry Hoodie looks like any other hoodie from the outside, if you look past the 4″x4″ Velcro patch you can use for morale patches. There are also two zippered shoulder pockets and two pen pockets on the left sleeve.
The real magic of this hoodie is the pass-through hole in the kangaroo pocket. This gives you unfettered access to a gun concealed on your waistband.
Thumbholes keep the sleeves from riding up when you wear this hoodie underneath another jacket. The hood is like any other hoodie’s hood and has a drawstring.
The fabric is 100% polyester and is slightly shiny. It’s somewhat resistant to water and wind but not supremely so. The fabric does a good job of wicking your sweat, though, so you can wear this hoodie in warmer weather.
- Acceptable for warm weather
- Allows access to your IWB or OWB concealed firearm
- Great for layering
- Most problems people have with this hoodie are sizing problems
The Rothco Concealed Carry Hoodie is an excellent way to add layers to your outfit while ensuring you can easily present your concealed firearm.
8. Best Waterproof Tactical Jacket: 5.11 Tactical Tac Dry Rain Shell Jacket
- Material: Nylon
- Available Colors: Black, charcoal, and dark navy
- Pockets: 4 exterior, 2 interior
- Hood? Yes
- Weatherproof? Yes
- Misc: Storm flap, Quixip sidearm access, pull-out ID panels
The 5.11 Tactical Tac Dry Rain Shell Jacket is a rain jacket that’s halfway between a packable poncho and a full-blown raincoat.
It’s made from waterproof nylon, has a storm flap covering the zipper, adjustable waist and wrists, and a removable hood. So, it’s good at keeping the rain off. That nylon isn’t ripstop, though, so be wary of any projecting nails!
The interior is lined with mesh to keep the garment breathable, so you won’t overheat even if you need to rain the Tac Dry Rain Shell during a summer storm.
There are six pockets in total. You get the normal handwarmer pockets along with two interior pockets and three ID panels. The ID panels are removable, so you can get extra storage in the front by taking them off. The rear one acts as a vent.
The sides have zippers, dubbed the Quixip system, for speedily accessing a handgun on your hip. Clips hold the side zippers shut so they won’t open when you don’t want them to.
- Cool even during hot rain
- Lightweight design
- Not super durable nylon fabric
The 5.11 Tactical Tac Dry Rain Shell Jacket is an excellent outer layer when you need to deal with heavy rain but isn’t as durable as you’d expect from 5.11 Tactical.
What Are Tactical Jackets and Who Are They Made For?
The word “tactical” is often overused in today’s shooting sports world, but nearly everyone knows what it means:
A tactical garment is conducive toward running and gunning.
This can bring to mind images of mall ninjas, decked out head-to-toe in dark black or camouflage gear that’s never been tested in the real world. You’ll notice that none of the tactical jackets above are quite like that.
These clothes are intended for two main types of people:
- Law enforcement officers
- Firearm-carrying civilians
In both cases, the idea is to have a garment that holds up over time, is comfortable, can resist the weather, and allows you to bring a weapon to bear if you need to.
This can cover a wide gamut of situations. On-duty and off-duty police officers, of course, need such clothing.
Non-LEO people like me can use tactical clothing to good effect as well.
A good tactical jacket is good for the range and for the woods. Some of them come in camo. Add on a blaze orange hunting vest and you have a great fall hunting set-up.
Even a black jacket is good for hunting. Sure, people like to sell you on the newest camo, but I was wearing a bright shirt the first time a doe nearly nuzzled my rifle!
These jackets are also good for people carrying a concealed weapon. They can either conceal a gun or allow you quick access to your concealed pistol without having to open the jacket.
Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of wearing a tactical jacket:
- Easy access to firearms
- Lots of storage
- Weather resistance
- Won’t restrict mobility
- Can be recognized as someone likely to be carrying a concealed firearm by other people familiar with tactical jackets
- More expensive than non-tactical jackets
How to Choose A Tactical Jacket?
Tactical jackets, for the most part, are interchangeable. There are only a few criteria which will make or break them for you. Generally, it’s personal preference, especially when it comes to style.
However, think about the following two items before you decide on a tactical jacket.
Firearm Carrying Method
How do you carry your handgun?
If you have a dedicated setup, whether inside or outside the waistband, and don’t want to change how you carry, then you need to buy a jacket that allows you to draw your gun through the jacket.
On the other hand, some jackets can hold the gun themselves. If you’re fine with adapting your draw to your clothes, then this can work very well.
But if you don’t CC a gun anyway, this doesn’t matter.
Choose the right clothing for your local weather.
If it rains a lot, then get a jacket with heavier water resistance, such as the Rothco Special Ops. But if you live in a mostly-sunny environment, you don’t need to pay for waterproofing.
Also, consider how heavy of a jacket you want. Lighter jackets are better for early fall and late spring while heavier jackets work more the colder it gets.
You can also layer a fleece tactical jacket under a coat or wear a hoodie under your jacket. In this case, make sure not to block off a pass-through hole and accidentally make it difficult to draw your firearm!
Top Tactical Jacket Brands
There are tactical gear snobs who decry 5.11 Tactical as not worth the price.
People who wear 5.11 Tactical clothing tend to continue to purchase 5.11 gear and ignore the naysayers. But they don’t have to do it often, because 5.11 clothes last a long time.
There was a long period in my life where I wore 5.11 clothes every day. When that era of my life ended, the clothes went into my closet and still get used occasionally. I never had to replace them. Not many of my jackets and pants can say that, even more expensive ones.
5.11 Tactical is named such because of rock climbing. 5.11 was the most difficult rock climb possible, according to the Yosemite Decimal System. 5.11’s pants were originally designed as rock climbing pants, a sport which destroys lesser clothes.
Someone noticed that these rock climbing pants were becoming popular amongst FBI students at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia, so 5.11 changed their direction slightly and started producing tactical clothing.
5.11 Tactical gear is used by police, safety officers, and civilians hungry for durable gear across the nation. They sell shirts, pants, jackets, and have even sold a line of tactical kilts, which is currently discontinued.
One can only hope they bring back the idea of a tactical kilt with a built-in handgun holster.
Though Rothco does not have as good a reputation as 5.11 Tactical, they still put out lots of quality gear.
Rothco is a wholesale distributor of milsurp and tactical clothing along with outdoor and survival gear. They originally started as just a distributor but eventually military surplus supplies dried up and they took to making their own.
Eventually, they found themselves making the gear used by some military and police members!
You can find Rothco clothing and equipment in military surplus stores around the nation. Their gear isn’t top of the line but it does tend to be worth the price, whether it’s a milsurp replica or innovative product.
If tactical jackets are too much for you, you might be interested in the tactical vest instead.